Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hakim of Grand Luncheonette

Who remembers the Grand Luncheonette? Owned by Fred Hakim, the wonderful little hole in the wall on 42nd Street was sadly closed "as part of the Times Square redevelopment project," wrote the Times at the time, "which has shuttered dozens of the neighborhood's older businesses -- many of them sex-oriented -- to make way for sparkling new restaurants, theaters and retail stores."

That seems like a lifetime ago, another world. We just got a note from Mark Hakim, son of the long-time luncheonette owner, with more sad news--and a request for memories.


early 1990s

Mark writes: "Hello everyone. On a very sad note, my father, Fred Hakim, who was the proprietor of the store for decades, is terminally ill with cancer. He is in hospice and the doctors say it is likely hours or a day or so. He suffers from aggressive cancer and is no longer conscious. He loved the store, 42nd street and, most of all, the people who patronized it. This video is timeless and, to our family, priceless. It captures him, times square and the store perfectly.

If any of you happen to have any additional pictures or videos that you don’t mind sharing, we’d be very appreciative."

If you'd like to get in touch with Mark, he can be reached at mhsu6@aol.com.


photo by Andrew Moore

The Grand Luncheonette lived on 42nd Street for 58 years. And it was grand. Richard Estes painted it in the 1960s. I went there as often as I could to soak up its greasy ambiance, nestled in chrome beneath the rotted marquee of the Selwyn theater.


Richard Estes, 1969

Writing about the Grand Luncheonette's demise, a journalist for the Daily News summed it up: "This is bigger than 42d St., bigger even than the Disney Corp. This is about New York being colonized by The Gap and Banana Republic and Starbuck's and all the rest. If new and improved Times Square is any indication, the standard for Italian cuisine will be the Olive Garden chain."


Jaap's flickr

By the end of 1997, with mass demolitions shaking its foundations, the Selwyn Theater collapsed, burying the Grand Luncheonette in rubble. With it went my favorite ghost sign: "Cooped up? Feelin' low? Enjoy a movie today!"

What came next for 42nd Street was exactly as the Daily News reporter predicted--the Olive Gardening of the Deuce. It should not have been that way.



In 1996, a year before being shuttered, before the building collapse, Fred Hakim told the Times that he hoped he'd be given a lease by the new owner of the building, saying "This could be a link between the past and the future." But he was not given a lease. His luncheonette was not a part of Giuliani's and the New 42nd Street's plan.

As he said, "I was brought up on this street. I'd like to finish my years on this street."


See Mr. Hakim serving hot dogs in the luncheonette's last days


John Woolf Photography

21 comments:

Ms. said...

Starting the day on a sad note, I just gotta' say that it's a damn shame. Disney, Olive Garden, and all the rest of the corporations will never remember your name, never remember what you liked to eat, never be able to connect the past to the present or smile the way people like Fred did, and never, never give you the feeling of belonging that makes people into a worthy community of belonging. My condolences to Fred's family and one last "thanks" to Fred.

keegan said...

sad...i remember that little place. i HATE the disneyfication of nyc - it's happening to coney island too. I'm trying to take my son (11) to all the places i remember growing up in the 70's that are still there and more than just a shadow of their former selves. A shorter and shorter list, alas. Feel free to suggest any places i may have missed or not thought of. We've gone to Chinatown, Village, east Village, CI, Columbia...any ideas are welcome!

Anonymous said...

The link at the end of this blog post is to the short film "Grand Luncheonette." If you happen to have trouble getting the video to play, it's also on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KB-K9kBAgoY

-Storko

Ken Mac said...

I loved this joint. Great photos. The Disney effect is everywhere, Kenny Castaways going down, it's block by block by block...and no one seems to give a shit but us

Josh Alan Friedman said...

I just loved sitting at this counter late at night in the open air. Nobody else but me and the counterman. It felt other-worldly, and I really miss it.

JAZ said...

I miss places like this so much. They were the soul of the city. So sorry to hear about Mr. Hakim.

What does it say about a city when it has no more room for the Fred Hakim's of the world?

Marty Wombacher said...

I'd give anything to go back in time and have a hot dog there. Sad news about Mr. Hakim, my condolences to his family. That video is priceless, thanks for this post. The Olive Garden will never get one penny of my money.

Sam S said...

I remember stopping in here a few times when I worked as a bike messenger in the 90's.

It was a great feeling, you could chat up any of the people at the counter without having to put on airs like people at todays establishments.

Back then you could argue that the life of even the poorest resident of New York was at least as culturally and socially rich as its most wealthy, no longer!!

God bless Mister Hakim and all others like him. I wish I could say the cavalry was on it's way and things will be reversed or that the current administration and inhabitants will develop a conscience and allow places and people like this to thrive again, but that's not going to happen.

How very, very sad. Living in any of America's large cities today is very uninspiring and sad.

glamma said...

ooof. heartbreaking

The Devil Michael said...

I never knew the place...and I feel, no, I F**KING KNOW I truly missed out on something..quite Grand.
My condolences to the family. Hopefully take heart and comfort in that his suffering will be over.

Jeremiah Moss said...

we heard today that Mr. Hakim has passed away. condolences to his family--and it was a wonderful luncheonette. there's no place like it left.

Debbie Tilkin Gonzalez said...

I will never forget the hot dogs and hamburgers! I actually liked the hamburgers!! Fred... you and your smile will be forever missed...

lauran said...

get the real picture: the WORLD is being colonized by who ever what ever. gaps or wal marts burger kings olive what ever. thats the way it is. bigger than you may believe. small businesses are closing everywhere. everything looks the same. everyones a transient employee, a stranger who you wont even see if you return the next day. but how would i know? i never ate in a chain. i am sure his burgers were from another planet compared to burger king. (now the KING).

Uncle Waltie said...

Another one gone, like so many other ones. In 1969, as a recent arrival to NYC, I moved into an SRO on West 44th Street, between 6th & 7th. I ate at places like Grand Luncheonette, Nedick's and Woolworth's (which also had a luncheonette) almost daily for the next two years. My deep sorrow to the Hakim family for their loss. A month or so ago I had to go to 630 Ninth Avenue (The Filmcenter Building). I got hit with a heavy dose of nostalgia. All the major film labs used to be in that area. And it was gritty, the New York of 60s and early 70s movies. Now it's semi-luxury hotels, Mickey Mouse and gawking tourists. But that's life, I guess.

randall said...

RIP. Was never there, but you just know that those were some good burgers.

...send not to know
For whom the bell tolls...

@Marty,
Maybe Cheeseburger Saturday Night from the past this week?

I also agree with Laura. Its not just New York. It's everywhere.

Unapologetically Mundane said...

I have to admit that I'm not originally from NYC, and I've been to Olive Garden a time or two (or more like twenty), but I found your blog for the first time tonight and was made nostalgic for a New York I'll never know.

Mark A. Hakim said...

Hello all. This is Fred Hakim's son, Mark. Our entire family met tonight for our second night of mourning, and we read this article. My wife and I just re-read the article, watched the video and read all the comments. The entire family appreciates it, and feels grateful not only for having our father, but also to the author for writing this article, and for all the readers who have shared their thoughts and appreciation for the old Times Square. My father is no longer in pain, and while he wasn't able to "finish [his] years up on [42nd] street", he did finish his years up always cherishing his other family: 42nd Street and all of you. Thank you.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Mark, thank you for writing in. I'm sorry for your loss, but glad that we could lend our voices to the celebration of your father's life. His luncheonette will not be forgotten.

Bill said...

I don't know if I ever visited Mr. Hakim's counter. I was raised in Manhattan and worked here for 40 years. I went downtown last month and called my brother and told him that old NYC is gone. No more Mom & Pop stores. Try to get a decent cup of coffee at Starbucks. Like the guy in the film said pretty soon all the cities will be alike.

Anonymous said...

Saw the documentary a few years ago at MOMA, great film and sorry your family was not able to hang onto the restaurant during New York's unfortunate transition into a theme park. Hopefully Grand Luncheonette will resurface in the future in a place where it will be appreciated.

Judy Yip said...

A year ago tonight, Mr. Hakim was called "home". In his own infamous way bought people together. I had the honor and priviledge to meet his children several days last year before he left us. We shared stories, laughed and cry. Mr. Hakim was not only "Mr. Luncheonette" owner but a teacher of mine in high school. My thoughts and prayers are with the Hakim family on this very difficult first anniversary.